Step-Parenting To Do's

Post-Divorce Boundaries: Where is the Line?

My dear husband separated from his ex-wife more than 5 years ago.  I came into the picture during the divorce proceedings, as I went through my own.  I’m sad to say for my husband that while my ex and I had absolutely no disputes, and the mediator called it the smoothest divorce he had ever completed, my husband had the divorce from Hades.  So many laws bent and broken, and as a powerless father, and even further powerless spectator to the backlash, and continuous turmoil one tiny woman was able to place upon a young couple and a young boy, there was nothing we could do about it.

I can’t say as she is all to blame, my husband was her greatest enabler.  Sometimes I wonder if perhaps it was in effort to keep the waters as calm as possible, or an effort to gain control of the situation.  I have read it time and time again in every stepmother blog, “why does he allow her to put your credit, our future, through the ringer?!” There were many times where he could have pressed charges, used information against her in divorce proceedings, proven her wrong doings, but he sat idle on the spine of empty threats.

Five years has passed, and I can say to those new step-mama’s out there, it get’s better!  Are we all one happy family?  I wouldn’t go that far, I’m still treated with zero respect from a birthmother regardless of the time I spend educating, loving, and caring for her only son a third of every year.  But there is no more fighting, no more turmoil really.   My step-son arrives on his allotted days, there are no more games using his tiny little body as a pawn in the complicated tactics of the worlds’ ultimate power struggle.  We hear from him a bit more often when he is there, and we try to do our best to remind him to reach out when he is here.  Life is as normal, and easy as it will probably become and I’m almost happy with it.

Almost, because there is a blurred line that incurred somewhere in there.  While she was playing her cards she pulled favors out of my ex in the name of her son.  Child support before it was ever ordered, more support than necessary to pull cars out of the impound, or help pay the new boyfriend’s rent.  All situations that had no relation to the comfortable sum she was left with initially in the divorce.  We have offered her legal advice for her family members as she has the audacity to say to my ex, “I can’t believe the evil things women do when going through a divorce.”  Followed with a laughter of, “oh I guess I was pretty bad.”   I didn’t think it very funny.

I addressed it in the beginning, the favors.  Saving her necklace she accidentally forgot when she took their son without permission states away.  My husband texting her at four in the morning because he was sick while my step son is in our care.   The line has been blurred for my husband and his ex, the appropriate level or practical situations for involvement in one another’s life.

I can say I do have a bit of perspective on it.  My ex and I had zero kids, we had a rocky start and made the adult decision that we didn’t want kids until we could reconcile our differences.  Fortunately we had that foresight considering the divorce that followed five years later.  Now I have two daughters with my husband.   I used to feel bad when I would notice a text where she expressed over and over again how “he is her best friend.”   I shook it off as stupid pregnant hormonal jealousy.  For some reason my blood would boil when she would call to complain about her life and her problems as they spent 30 minutes to an hour talking on the phone in the evening, or he’d come home to talk about the long talk they had had while he was at work.  They were different than me though, they shared a son.

Recently my ex-husband had his new baby, I didn’t hear about it but through passing.  The news was exciting, but I was not hurt that I wasn’t told by him, why would I have been?  We aren’t even part of each others’ life anymore, that’s how it should be.  I thought about sending a gift, but then thought, how intrusive to his sweet wife whom I have known since high school.  If they wanted my involvement I would have been invited in.

That’s when it hit me.  My ex and I have absolutely zero hate for one another, but we also have no reason to talk having no children together.   If we had kids there would be calls from our kids, a short call here and there to plan travel for visits should that have been my life in that situation.   We may bump into each other at football game.  Make an attempt at coparenting (hey I’m not saying it’s easy), having conversations about schooling decisions, our child’s health issues, extracurricular decisions, or even extreme case disciplinary situations.  Beyond that though…our lives are separate, we are not enemies, but we are not friends.  We have our own families now, and I feel terrible saying I nearly always forget I even had a life before this.  If I remembered more often this epiphany may have come years sooner.

So the boundary is clear for us, because there are no ties that may blur the lines or serve as crutches.  I’m happy for my stepson, but I’m frustrated that my husband and his ex could never understand that clear line drawn in the sand for them as well.   She calls asking for favors that have nothing to do with my stepson.  She calls to cry about family tragedies.  She calls to complain about her emotionally abusive husband.  She asks to be rescued, but the problem is the son is no where in the conversation.   She is the one who wants saving, and she does not realize that she is overstepping the lines.  They have been divorced five years now, my husband should be the last shoulder on the list to cry on.   For her own sake and health, she should have moved on by now.  Although I was there through the divorce proceedings I never pried into the catalyst that sparked the actual divorce, so I don’t know what unresolved emotions may still be in play.

So perhaps she does feel abandoned in some way, or that his friendship is owed to her.  I’ve heard the nitty gritty about her brother’s divorce, but still, in five years, have never received so much as a quick email update about my stepson’s grades, studies, extracurriculars, or interests.  Perhaps it’s not abandonment, perhaps they don’t know how to turn off the game of power that they found themselves dancing for far too long.   Or perhaps it’s as simple as, they don’t know where the line should be drawn.

It bothers me, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.   No it’s not jealousy, I have 0% worry about that.  As I told my husband when he had some concerns at the beginning of our relationship about my ex, “I wouldn’t have worked so hard to divorce him if I had any second thoughts on the matter.”   So no concerns of him going back.   The problem then is I have a family, two beautiful girls and a smart and successful husband.  I have a home, and we have our own dreams.  I want to have my family to myself, that is only fair.  There is only room for one mama in this household, and unless it involves our shared son; she should not be in the picture.  If a mama bear was in her cave with her cubs, the public would find it understandable when she became enraged that another mama bear wanted to be in her space and help herself to a bit of her honey.  It’s innate in me, my mama bear sensors are going bonkers every time she wants something from us for her own personal issues.

If our stepson is being abused then she needs to do the adult thing and make a decision.  The conversation needs to be about her concerns for him, not herself.  If he’s not at risk, then she needs to talk to her own family, her own brother, her own friends, the ones she moved our stepson so far away to be with.  Is it still just part of her game?

So how to start the conversation without sounding like a bitchy, selfish step-mom?   I’ll have to keep you posted on that one.


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